Reel Big FishAs one of the last original members of ska-punk pioneers Reel Big Fish, trombonist, Dan Regan has seen a lot in the ska scene. The band is currently on Warped Tour supporting their greatest hits album Best Of Us For The Rest Of Us. In an interview with Alex Eschbach, Regan shared his thoughts on Sublime (With Rome), the dynamic of the band, the current state of ska and tackled the criticisms his band has faced over the years.


How's Warped Tour been so far?
Warped Tour's been great. We've only been out for a few days. So we haven't formed the calluses that many of the other bands have. But we have a few years on the Warped Tour so we get back in the saddle pretty quickly. It's been nice and hot.

I saw you guys play in Oklahoma City a few weeks ago and I was wondering where's Rabbit [Ryland Steen]?
He is on tour with the television dynamo known as Kris Allen. And. uh, he's been off and on playing gigs with them for the last year, year and a half. They finally like wanted to do a tour. He went off and did a tour with them and left us in the capable hands of a gentlemen named Camear. Who in no at all learned all the drum parts and was willing to fill in with us brigands. But he sends his regards. Ryland sends his regards because he's out there lip synching with a backing track and stuff. So he really misses playing real drums.

How did Ryland end up getting that gig?
I don't know. He's one of those guys that's always got his ear to the ground in the sort of studio scene in Los Angeles. He plays on a lot of peoples demo records. A lot of bands they get signed to a record label and they get a producer and everything and they go in and make their record. They record and send the band home. The producer calls Ryland and says, "Can you do redo these drum parts? These kids suck." He's one of the drum doctors in the Hollywood scene out there. These kids plan on selling records and think they're really playing those drums. But he's ours. Don't worry. He's never leaving.

How did you guys pick what songs were going to be on the "Best Of" record?
We kind of just rerecorded everything. We've been working on it for two years in between tours when we get home. The process of building a studio and practice space in this warehouse that we have. So it's sort of been this project that was both for the studio and to reclaim a lot of the recordings that we have. I mean we own the rights to the songs, obviously. We wrote them. But over the years they've been sort of shuffled around from record label to record label. We were like, "We should have our own versions of the songs. Especially now that we're in our thirties and can play them better when we recorded when we eighteen-years-old or something. Let's get good versions." I think Aaron went on the selection process probably based on set list of what people like to here. Their not changed too much, really. We didn't change the arrangements. We kind of cleaned it up a bit. When we first started off we were really trying hard to show that we were good musicians. So we would write all these complicated parts that may or may not serve the song. But ultimately it's the same music. It's just played a little bit better. We use to have guys in the band that we were like, "He can't really play but he's hilarious." And now it's a little bit different priority.

How did you guys pick which songs you were going to play acoustically for the record?
That's one of those Aaron things where he lost sleep over it for a few weeks and finally settled on the ones he chose. He's kind of a stickler for that kind of stuff. I'm sure they're all on some list somewhere has someone's favorite Reel Big Fish song. We can't really just put it out without playing "Beer" on it.

You guys are also known for your covers. Is that how you go about picking those songs?
Yeah, usually. When we get together after not hanging out awhile and we start jamming we usually start with cover songs. Everyone's always learning music and trying to one up each other. So we start with a couple covers to get on track and sometimes they stick. A lot of time it'll just be a sound check and someone will be jamming off a cover and it sticks. Or a lot of time Aaron just says, "Hey we're going to do this song. I've wanted to do it since I was fourteen-years-old and now we're going to do it."

Well, that's a question I wanted to ask you. A lot of people get the impression that in the band it's Aaron's band and you guys get frustrated. Is there any truth to that?
Yeah, yeah. But I'm sure it's like that in every band. I mean he's the songwriter and the leader and everything like that it. So it gets frustrating. But that's how it goes. One of the ways we stayed together for so long is by giving each other space and understanding the roles. As much as I may agree or disagree with Aaron at times I don't want his job. I'd hate to do what he does. He's got a lot of pressure on his shoulders. I offer my two cents. I'm not putting my heart out there the way he is. [laughs]

That's one thing I've always found interesting is I've felt like you guys have always had more criticism compared to your contemporaries. People say that you guys write only happy songs. But lyrically it's always been more snarky and self-loathing. Why do you that that is?
Well, I think we're all very self-deprecating. It's part of our humor. We like comedy a lot. It's easy to make fun of yourself. We're not the kind of band that's going to write songs about big world issues and things like that. I mean maybe I would if I had a band. But it's not something that Aaron's interested in. So we figure it's better to be honest and write about what we know and that's being in a band and the pitfalls of it.

Speaking of a band that you're in, how has Black Casper
It's going. It's slow. It's hard to stay motivated. I've got a kid now. So when I'm home I try to spend a lot of time acting like a muppet. I'm always regarding tracks. But I get sidetracked because someone will go, "Will you help me with this for a podcast?" And I stop thinking about what do I want to do? Someday.

I know one of the criticisms you guys have faced is since 2006 you guys have put out four releases but only twelve original songs. Are there any plans to release some new material?
Yeah, we'll probably get to that this year. We were finalizing our studio. We think it's finally ready to do a real record. It's one of those things in like 2005 when we got dropped from Jive, thankfully, we were like, "Well, what have we always wanted to do?" So we made a checklist of everything we wanted to do like covers record, greatest hit records, stuff like that, Christmas record, Monkeys [for Nothin' and the Chimps for Free] which was like all the old songs we never had a chance to make sound good. I don't think we're going to do a Christmas record. We've kind of worked our way through the checklist now. But I think we're finally ready. We had a miserable experience with a couple of our last records that were all originals. I think that made Aaron kind of unsure when it came to putting out new stuff.

After We're Not Happy 'Til You're Not Happy came out a lot of fans kind of got the sense that this is going to be your last record as a band. Was there any of that going around?
I don't think there was any talk of breaking up. Everyone was pretty upset with each other.

Well, sonically that record was a lot different and the lyrics were all about how Aaron hates being in a band.
Yeah, that was a weird time. He was doing Forces of Evil and Scott was doing Littlest Man Band. And everyone was just kind of distracted. Aaron thought that he couldn't bring ska music to the band anymore. He thought we wanted to do something else, something different. There was a lot of miscommunication.

Speaking of bringing ska music to the band, a lot of people have an idea that ska bands that have been around for awhile don't even listen to ska anymore. Is that true?
[laughs] No, it's definitely not true with us. We all love ska music. We listen to reggae and ska almost exclusively when we're on tour. It's the one music we all like. Aaron may like glam rock and when he's throwing a party he may put on Lady Gaga. When all six of us our together we're listening to ska and reggae.

Ska hasn't been on the radio or gotten any mainstream support in a long time. What do you think of the current state of ska?
I think it's always going to be coveted as an underground scene. That's why it sustains all it's mini successes in stages and waves or whatever. We're glad to be a part of it. We're going to wave the ska flag for the rest of our career. It's the one thing that's kept us going all these years. The actual ska fans. The radio listeners are a fickle bunch. They maybe buying one record a year. They're not conscious music enthusiasts. Most of our fans are downloaded music constantly whether it's Reel Big Fish or Tuvan throat singing. They're just into music. Maybe it's because a lot of band geeks and play horns in school. So they're open to different flavors.

With bands like Streetlight Manifesto, Bomb Bomb the Music Industry! and We Are the Union there's been a lot of debate. Do you think there's a fourth wave of ska out there?
Oh yeah. It's really hard to draw the line. We get lumped in third wave because we were doing what a lot of those bands were by adding punk and suburban white kid vibe to the reggae/ska sound. But honestly most of those bands are ten years older than us at least. Like the The [Mighty Mighty] Bosstones, Fishbone, No Doubt and Sublime… I mean we were copying them. I'm kind of friends with those guys, but we're not peers. I mean they're way above us. I mean maybe stylistically we are. But the waves of kept going. Streetlight's got their pirate galley sound. That's the best thing about the music. It started as a hybrid music. I think the bands that do something different end up being the most interesting.

You just mentioned Sublime. I know they were a huge influence on you guys. What do you think of Sublime with Rome?
[Laughs] People get really upset that. As far as I'm concerned it's two thirds of Sublime. That's a majority. If they want to be Sublime and tour as Sublime that's fine. It's not taking anything away from the legacy of Sublime. As genius and wonderful as Bradley's voice was, he's not an icon to be emulated. If people want to go out and hear the music that's fine.

I know you've only been on the road a couple weeks. But what's been your favorite moment of the tour so far?
It's mostly been seeing old friends. There's people on this tour, especially on the production realm. We made maybe ten years ago as friends. You don't see these people that often and then you go stand around a campfire and boom they're all in one place. And now that we're old guys it's fun to see kids that started off as a runner and now they own a record label. It's pretty funny.